Thursday, October 23, 2014

Wilderness Survival Guide (III)

Still we are on this surviving the wilderness thing.
If you read my blog, get used to it and settle in, because we are going to be hanging out here for a while :)

So, it's one thing to find yourself in the middle of nowhere. It's another thing to find yourself there without a compass.

I will say in all honesty that I have never really been into the whole compass thing. If there is even such a thing as the "compass thing." I don't know...boy scouts...hikers...wilderness men...?  I mean bottom line...I am not exactly a "wilderness girl." I like all things floral and polka dotted and Kate Spade, and certainly I have never owned or wished to own a compass. Everyone makes such a big deal out of them, and I guess they are actually pretty useful little tools...but since I don't often find myself in wilderness settings, I guess I've never really seen the need.

I figured I should give you a little background on my relationship with compasses since I am about to write a blog post using them as a piece of my analogy. As you can see, I am not the most qualified person to be referencing the compass...but I digress. Just bear with me :)

Let me give you a little step by step break down of what to do when you find yourself in the wilderness lacking this important little tool called a compass. You may think it won't ever happen. Believe me when I say...I didn't think I would ever find myself there either. But it's best to just be over prepared I suppose because here I am in the wilderness "without a compass."

Of course this is the figurative wilderness I am referring to and thus the compass is figurative as well.

#1 Stay calm.
Obvi, right? Of course when you are not the one in the wilderness without a compass, this seems like a given. But, from personal and recent experience, I can attest that staying calm in this particular situation (figuratively or physically I would imagine) is easier said than done. I left my full time, fun,  great paying job and a ministry team and project that I loved, a city that I adored, and moved home to Ohio with absolutely no plan. I guess you could debate that Ohio is not exactly the wilderness, but for me that's exactly what it is. And let me tell you, I was NOT doing a great job at staying calm. I was full on freaking out. Every plan I had made had fallen through, I was leaving everything I loved and a place where I felt safe and at home, and stepping into this place that was now just a distant memory. A place I no longer knew how to navigate and a place where I had no plans or direction.

A little background on me...I am a planner in every sense of the word. I certainly have my streak of free spirit, hippie as well, but on the whole, I love lists, I love my planner, and I love to know what's coming next.

Ohio (AKA my wilderness) looked nothing like this. And no, for the first little bit, I was NOT calm.
But I wish I would have been.
 Because once I took a few deep breaths and looked around and actually let myself soak some of it in, I realized that the wilderness was not such an awful place after all. But the truth is, when your eyes are blurry with tears you can't gain perspective on how beautiful your surroundings might actually be, and when you are hyperventilating and choking on sobs and worry, you can't take in how sweet the air might be. It's only natural to be a little concerned that you are now in the middle of nowhere with no way of finding your way out. But trust me when I say, keep your cool. The journey through this seemingly barren place will be a lot less awful if you start out on a calm note and set yourself up for taking in the sights and breathing in the air.

#2 Wait patiently for directions and next steps.
Let me stress once more, I am a planner. I am a go getter. I like to take action and get things done. You better believe that if I find myself in the middle of nowhere with no tools or directions, the last thing I will be doing is sitting back or standing still (or like I said above, staying calm.) Even once I do finally calm down, it may not appear that I have to onlookers. I will be looking around, taking it all in, touching things, and formulating a plan.

Once again. I would not recommend this approach.

If you are following along with my wilderness blogging, you are probably starting to see a pattern.

As much as you are going to want to start figuring your way out of this forsaken place as quickly as possible, you would be wise to calm yourself down and then stay where you are until you receive further instructions. Diving in and moving forward in any direction at this point will probably just get you more lost and more in the middle of nowhere than you already are. If that's even possible.

Now, I know what you are thinking.
"I am in the gosh darn middle of nowhere with no sense of where I am or even the faintest idea of which way I should move because I have no idea where I am heading...what am I supposed to do, wait for divine revelation...a voice from the above...?"

Yes. To all of the above. That is precisely what I am telling you to do. Stay still and wait for instructions. Divine revelation if you will.

And if you are thinking I am insane and you are ready to push that little x at the top of the screen and stop reading, just hear me out. I have actual evidence that this actually is the way to go.

The Israelites that I have been referencing throughout this series (found in Exodus and throughout the Biblical Old Testament) actually got this part right. At first anyways. Once they pulled themselves together and calmed down a bit, they looked in front of them, and there in the middle of nowhere out of nowhere God showed up and revealed their next steps, even led the way.

"You in your amazing compassion
    didn’t walk off and leave them in the desert.
The Pillar of Cloud didn’t leave them;
    daily it continued to show them their route;
The Pillar of Fire did the same by night,
    showed them the right way to go."

-Nehemiah 9:19

This is where I find myself currently. I am finally getting a grip on the calm element and now I am focusing on the standing still, patiently waiting part. I have this feeling I'll be working a little longer to get a grip on this piece. But I look to this scripture often to remind myself that waiting on God will most certainly be worth it, and when God does finally begin to reveal where we are headed and the steps that we need to take to get there, I will be on my way! And I know without a doubt that He will lead me and walk with me every step of the way.

#3 Enjoy
That's right. I said enjoy. When you find yourself in the middle of nowhere with seemingly no way out and nothing to help you start finding a way out, enjoy. It may seem like I am reiterating some things in this little series of sorts. It's only because I know how often I have to remind myself of these things and relearn these lessons. I reiterate mostly for the sake of navigating my own wilderness journey.

Something I touched on in part two of this series is gaining perspective and seeing the wilderness as a wide open space to roam freely and enjoy a unique season of dependence on God rather than an empty, awful, lonely place where you allow yourself to become bitter with God.

I am essentially saying this again. Enjoy being out of control. Enjoy not knowing the next ten steps or having to figure out the next ten steps or how you will go about taking them. Enjoy the place for what it is. Enjoy the endless expanse of sky above and the sweetness of the unpolluted air.

Most of all, enjoy the waiting. Enjoy waiting to see how God will show up and the creative ways in which He will choose to reveal Himself and lead. For the Israelites it was a pillar of cloud and a pillar of fire in the sky above. Years before, He revealed Himself to Moses and called him out of a burning bush. For me, He's hung banners with my name on them over very public places in very large cities to get me where He needed me (I'll save that story for another day.)

The point is. When we are calm and still and enjoying the wilderness, there's no telling how or when or where God will show up and get you moving forward again! Give him that space and freedom to work in your life! You will not regret it.

So. I leave you with this.
Stay calm, be still, wait patiently, and enjoy here.

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